Where in the World Is Harry Reid?

As more lawmakers call on Obama to make a public case before striking Syria, the Senate’s top Democrat is remarkably mum on his position.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks to reporters after the Senate stepped back from the brink of a political meltdown, clearing the way for confirmation of one of President Barack Obama's long-stalled nominations, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. 
National Journal
Michael Catalin
Aug. 30, 2013, 12:06 p.m.

In Nevada, some 7,300 miles from Dam­as­cus, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id got an up­date on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­s­i­tion on the Syr­i­an con­flict this af­ter­noon.

His aides say the Sen­ate ma­jor­ity lead­er might be half a world away from the war and half a con­tin­ent away from Wash­ing­ton, but he’s as plugged in­to the gov­ern­ment’s con­ver­sa­tions about how to pro­ceed in Syr­ia as any­one in Con­gress.

But the Sen­ate’s top Demo­crat has kept a de­cidedly low pro­file as Pres­id­ent Obama wrestles with wheth­er to send mis­siles in­to Syr­ia after Bashar al-As­sad’s gov­ern­ment used chem­ic­al weapons on its cit­izens.

In­deed, un­like a hand­ful of oth­er Demo­crats, Re­id has not yet said how he prefers the ad­min­is­tra­tion to pro­ceed. One of Re­id’s top lieu­ten­ants and the No. 3 Demo­crat in the Sen­ate, Chuck Schu­mer of New York, at­ten­ded an in­tel­li­gence brief­ing by tele­con­fer­ence on Thursday with U.S. of­fi­cials and sug­ges­ted he would back the ad­min­is­tra­tion if it chose to launch a strike. (Re­id did not join the call, and Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell also did not par­ti­cip­ate.)

“A lim­ited ac­tion to knock out his cap­ab­il­ity of de­liv­er­ing chem­ic­al weapons in the fu­ture could be ap­pro­pri­ate, but we have to be very care­ful not to let our in­volve­ment es­cal­ate,” Schu­mer said in a state­ment.

Asked why his lieu­ten­ants shared their po­s­i­tions while Re­id has not, a Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic aide said it was too early to for­mu­late a po­s­i­tion. “Things are still de­vel­op­ing,” the aide said.

The reas­on for keep­ing such a low pro­file, ac­cord­ing to former Re­id aide Jim Man­ley, is straight­for­ward. There’s little up­side for the ma­jor­ity lead­er to speak up be­fore the pres­id­ent has made his de­cision pub­lic.

“He’s pre­dis­posed to sup­port the pres­id­ent and would urge his col­leagues to do so as well,” Man­ley said.

Still, it seems Re­id soon will have to con­front a ques­tion that’s gain­ing mo­mentum: Should the pres­id­ent seek con­gres­sion­al au­thor­iz­a­tion be­fore launch­ing a mil­it­ary strike in Syr­ia? A grow­ing num­ber of law­makers, in­clud­ing at least one Sen­ate Demo­crat, are clam­or­ing for such an au­thor­iz­a­tion. Rep. Scott Ri­gell, R-Va., re­cruited some 140 law­makers, in­clud­ing 21 Demo­crats, to sign a pe­ti­tion ur­ging Obama to get con­gres­sion­al au­thor­iz­a­tion for a mil­it­ary strike.

House Speak­er John Boehner is call­ing for the pres­id­ent to tell Con­gress and the pub­lic what he’s plan­ning to do, stress­ing the need for the White House to con­sult with law­makers.

“If the pres­id­ent be­lieves this in­form­a­tion makes a mil­it­ary re­sponse im­per­at­ive, it is his re­spons­ib­il­ity to ex­plain to Con­gress and the Amer­ic­an people the ob­ject­ives, strategy, and leg­al basis for any po­ten­tial ac­tion,” said Boehner spokes­man Brendan Buck.

There’s at least one good reas­on to sug­gest Re­id might not in­sist the pres­id­ent get Con­gress’ bless­ing. Some Re­pub­lic­ans are already sig­nal­ing they would not au­thor­ize an at­tack.

“We can’t simply launch a few mis­siles and hope for the best,” said Sen. James In­hofe, the rank­ing Re­pub­lic­an on the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

That’s a point not lost on Sen­ate Demo­crats. For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Sen. Bob Men­en­dez said that while he would like to see the pres­id­ent seek con­gres­sion­al sup­port be­fore a launch, Men­en­dez poin­ted out that un­der the War Powers Act, the pres­id­ent has the au­thor­ity to en­gage the armed forces for up to 60 days without le­gis­lat­ive per­mis­sion.

A timeline for when Re­id might stake a po­s­i­tion is murky. In May, Re­id in­dic­ated he pre­ferred a cau­tious ap­proach to war. Even as re­ports swirled then that chem­ic­al weapons had been used, the ma­jor­ity lead­er showed little eager­ness to re­act quickly.

“My per­son­al feel­ing is that the evid­ence shows that [As­sad] has used chem­ic­al weapons. But re­mem­ber, we have been through this be­fore,” Re­id said, ac­cord­ing to the Las Ve­gas Sun, re­call­ing the Ir­aq war. “The yel­low cake [urani­um], re­mem­ber that? There was a rush to judg­ment and a war; that was one of the reas­ons we rushed to war.”

What We're Following See More »
ASKS CONGRESS FOR $1.1 BILLION MORE
White House Grants $53 Million for Opioids
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday awarded 44 states, four tribes and the District of Columbia a combined $53 million in grants to expand access to treatment for opioid use disorders and ultimately aimed at reducing the number of opioid-related deaths." But HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and drug czar Michael Botticelli both called on Congress to approve the $1.1 billion Obama has requested to fight the opioid crisis.

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Offices Does Trump Have in Battleground States?
1 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Eighty-eight, according to PBS. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has 291 offices in those same 15 states.

Source:
CORRINE BROWN LOSES HERS
Wasserman Schultz Wins Her Primary
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz beat back a primary challenge by law professor Tim Canova on Tuesday. The Florida Democrat and deposed former Democratic National Committee chief led 57%-42% with more than 80% of the vote counted last night. Meanwhile, fellow Florida Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown became the fifth incumbent to lose during this election cycle. Brown, who was recently indicted for fraud, lost to former state Sen. Al Lawson.

Source:
CHALLENGER MAY NOT ENDORSE HIM
McCain Survives in Arizona
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Reports of Sen. John McCain's demise were greatly exaggerated. Seeking a sixth term, the Arizona Republican handily defeated upstart Kelli Ward. The Associated Press called the race around 8:30pm local time. Ward was in no mood to be conciliatory, saying, "After refusing to debate while running a slash and burn campaign devoid of actual ideas, I hope the senator can rest comfortably with his conscience as he continues to lecture others about civility. The Republican party cannot win as a national party if we keep nominating unprincipled career politicians whose only objective is perpetual re-election." McCain now faces U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in the Nov. 8 general election.

Source:
SURPRISING DEVELOPMENTS
Trump Meeting with Mexican President Today
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump will meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto today. "Trump's meeting is at the invitation of Pena Nieto, who tweeted that he's planning to meet with other candidates as well." Few details were made public, but "Trump is scheduled to be on stage at 6 p.m. in Phoenix for a major immigration speech, so the meeting will be early in the day."

Source:
×